Ethnic Political Parties Pledge Restoration of Peace, Commitment to Federalism

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Ethnic political parties have promised to restore peace in Burma if they win a collective majority in the upcoming 2020 general election.

NMG spoke to members of the Kachin State People’s Party (KSPP), Chin National League for Democracy (CNLD), Karen National Democratic Party (KNDP) and the Kayah State Democratic Party (KySDP) about their vision for the country following the vote on Sunday.

Gumgrawng Awng Hkam, vice chairperson 2 of the KSPP, pointed out that neither the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) nor the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) have been able to end the decades-long civil war in Burma.

“There will be no peace if we don’t implement it,” he told NMG.

The KSPP’s strategy is to follow the principles and spirit of the 1947 Panglong Agreement to build a genuine federal Union.

“We would hold discussions with all armed organizations. We would implement all-inclusive participation in the peace process, with political parties and armed organizations… we would also discuss it in Parliament. We would have to hold discussions with all stakeholders,” Gumgrawng Awng Hkam said of his party’s plan if elected.

The promise of peace is a common campaign focus as parties close in on election day on November 8.

For the CNLD, the restoration of peace is a matter of policy, chairperson Ngai Sak told NMG.

“We don’t have another option,” he said. “It’s really difficult to change the [2008] Constitution in Parliament. Therefore, we will try to change it by discussing the political framework on the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement] path.”

He added that his party’s goal is also to build a federal Union.

The KNDP says a federal democratic Union—based on equality and self-determination for ethnic nationalities—is one of their main political objectives, alongside the restoration of peace and national reconciliation.

The existing NCA should not be mistaken for a peace accord, KNDP chair Mann Aung Pyi Soe explained.

“We don’t believe that we will have full peace after the signing of the NCA. In my opinion, the signing of the NCA means to have a ceasefire. We won’t hear the sounds of weapons firing. There will be no tax collection. But it’s not genuine peace,” he told NMG. “I believe that genuine peace will be restored in our country only if ethnic grievances in the minds of ethnic people are addressed.”

The KNDP also aims to amend the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and draw up a state constitution for Karen State.

While the KySDP has not directly cited its perspective on the peace process in the party’s election manifesto and in their campaign promises, they have pledged to work toward peace and economic and regional development informed by public consultations.

“If we win the election, we will try to restore peace in our country. We have to hold discussions with all of the stakeholders including the Burma Army and ethnic armed organizations. After we get common ground, we can move forward to build the Union,” party secretary Thae Reh said.

The future of the peace process, he added, would depend on “the voice of the people.”

The KySDP has also promised to implement a resettlement program for internally displaced persons in Karenni (Kayah) State after peace is restored.

A total of 93 political parties are running for representation in Burma’s general election.